Opinion: Arctic Orientation
On Friday, a press release landed in my email box, informing me that the U.S. Coast Guard hosted a “Senior Leader Arctic Orientation”, a whirlwind tour that put 30 people into Nome for a few hours last week. It is good form to give the heads-up to the press when those folks come into our region but the press was not invited and we learned only about it after the fact. Neither was there any tribal representation.
“The two-day tour provided policy makers and mission managers exposure to the expanded missions, emerging threats, and key regional stakeholders throughout the Arctic domain,” said their press release. Key regional stakeholders? Emerging threads? Expanded mission? Please do tell us more.
These high-level visitors from Washington D.C. saw Anchorage, JBER, and two quick visits to Nome and Kotzebue. In Kotzebue they met with NANA, Maniilaq and the Native Village of Kotzebue.
In Nome they met with City of Nome officials and heard a port expansion presentation.
The sole fixation on the port is not healthy. There is so much more going on in this region of interest to the Coast Guard and to just go for the low-hanging fruit and get “educated” on the port expansion is like checking a box, “Yeah, we were there.” Under which rock would those high-level senior policy makers be living, if they never heard of the Nome port expansion? How about getting educated on something they DON’T know?
This unannounced visit was rude. First of all, when the Coast Guard starts throwing around words like “expanded missions and emerging threats” they have my attention. There needs to be more two-way communication between federal agencies and this region, including all stakeholders – mostly the tribes – to clarify what this means (we can all guess), but stakeholders are not just the port folks. And of course, leaving out the press, just adds insult to injury.
These incidents are not isolated. We have yet to hear from federal agencies advising us on what to do when the birds drop out of the sky with the avian flu. NOAA just recently declared an unusual mortality event for Maine in seals, suspected to have succumbed to the avian flu. Well, when do we get the cooperation with the federal managing agencies to inform us? We got birds and we got seals, so what do we need to get ready for?
Or, the Army Corps of Engineers. Whenever there are new developments in the controversial IPOP application to mine for gold at Bonanza Channel, the Corps does not publicly announce those notices. We have to go find them and good luck, getting a timely or complete answer out of the Corps.
The system is not working for us, the low-level stakeholders. I hope the senior high-level Coasties had a good time here and learned about Alaskan realities but I also hope that District 17 will do a better job communicating with us. -D.H.—